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How to Burn a Lot of Calories on Elliptical We all know that burning calories is a large part of losing weight, but we also know it is often the most difficult part. While some may say elliptical machines don’t provide enough caloric burn, when utilized properly and efficiently, elliptical machines can provide intense, calorie burning workouts — and help you shed the pounds!


Most of us are all too aware that ingesting too many calories causes weight gain. A calorie is a measurement of the amount of energy that foods produce in the body, and if we don’t use that energy, our bodies store it as fat, which can add pounds.

Caloric expenditure is dictated by metabolism, which is the process by which the body converts food and drinks into energy. Metabolism is composed of:

  1. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) The minimum number of calories your body needs daily to sustain life through breathing, heartbeat and brain activity. It varies by sex, age, body size, muscle mass and hormones.
  2. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) This is your BMR plus the rate at which your body uses energy while at rest (not active). This is impacted by the body’s size (taller people have a higher RMR) and muscle mass (muscle processes more calories than fat). RMR makes up about 50-75% of your daily caloric expenditure.
  3. Thermogenesis – The digestive process uses energy and accounts for approximately 10% of your overall metabolic rate.
  4. Physical activity – Exercise and activity boost your metabolism by increasing the need for energy. Physical activity can make a big difference in your daily caloric burn.

The Importance of Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is a great way to expend the calories you ingest and help control your weight. Cardiovascular exercise is anything that keeps your heart rate elevated consistently for a sustained period from 15 minutes to two hours, such as jogging, elliptical training, cycling, rowing, swimming laps, and cross-country skiing.

Anaerobic workouts are stop-start activities with bursts of energy required. These include strength training, high-intensity interval training, sprints and jumping rope. High-intensity interval sessions are particularly beneficial in burning calories both during workouts and for as much as 24-48 hours afterwards.

Strength training also is ideal for burning calories, because it increases muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, which means you burn more calories overall.

Pilates, yoga and stretching are great for building core strength and stability and improving flexibility and balance, but don’t use a lot of calories.

The best way to burn the most calories during exercise is to be consistent and sustained – at least 20-60 minutes or more. Vary modalities so that you don’t do the same workout every time. Your body adapts to the stresses applied to it and becomes more efficient, so over time, you will burn fewer calories.

Challenge yourself with different workouts, including steady state and interval cardio training and strength sessions using different tools, such as free weights, selectorized or plate-loaded machines, body weight and resistance bands and tubing. Workout outside, choose different equipment at the gym, take group exercise classes, hire a trainer, use a variety of videos or join a running club.

Benefits of Elliptical Machines

Elliptical machines are great ways to burn calories because of these benefits:

  • Low-impact – The elliptical motion is smooth and doesn’t stress the ankles, knees, hips or back.
  • Total-body – Most elliptical machines work the upper and lower body simultaneously, unlike many cardio machines, resulting in greater muscle involvement for higher  caloric expenditure.
  • Multiple muscles – Total-body ellipticals use all the major muscle groups, including the glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, along with the back, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps.
  • Versatility – Capitalize on true cross training by pedaling forward or backward, targeting just the lower body, emphasizing the upper body or changing stride length.
  • Variety – Choose from a traditional standing elliptical, an Octane xRide recumbent elliptical, an Octane LateralX lateral elliptical and Octane’s newest XT-One cross-trainer for different challenges and better overall conditioning.

Calorie Burn on Elliptical Machines

Calorie burn on elliptical machines is based on several factors:

  • Body weight – the heavier you are, the more calories you typically burn during exercise
  • Body composition – people with more muscle mass tend to burn more calories
  • Gender – because men can be heavier and have more muscle mass than women, they may burn more calories for the same workout
  • Duration – the longer the workout, the more calories you expend
  • Intensity –  greater resistance, a faster pace, a higher heart rate and vigorous intervals boost calorie burn
  • Upper-body work – the more the upper body is actively engaged, the higher the  caloric expenditure

In figuring calorie burn on elliptical machines, it’s important to input your body weight before your workout; otherwise, the machine usually defaults to calculating calories for an “average” 150-pound person. If you weigh less than that, the calorie burn noted on the machine will be an overestimate; it you weight more, it will underestimate your actual number.

Keep in mind that these numbers are estimates and can vary by the elliptical manufacturer; without being measured in a lab, you won’t know the exact number of calories burned. According to the Harvard Medical School, you burn approximately 2.16 calories for every pound of body weight during 30 minutes of elliptical use. For example, a 160-pound person would burn about 345 calories during 30 minutes on the elliptical.

Here are some estimates:

  • 120-pound woman
    • 30 minutes = 250-310 calories
    • 60 minutes = 450-600 calories
  • 150-pound woman
    • 30 minutes = 300-400 calories
    • 60 minutes = 550-800 calories
  • 180-pound man
    • 30 minutes = 375-500 calories
    • 60 minutes = 750-950 calories
  • 200-pound man
    • 30 minutes = 400-550 calories
    • 60 minutes = 800-1000 calories

How to Maximize Caloric Expenditure on a Elliptical Machines

To burn a lot of calories on elliptical machines, try the following:

  1. Try new programs. Skip the manual routine and be open to new challenges. There’s an entirely new world of training, with premium machines generally offering steady-state, interval and heart rate interactive workouts. Some may automatically change the resistance level, require a different pace or vary the stride length. Find some you like and benefit from different workloads.
  2. Change the motion. Go in reverse from time to time, and change your pace from slower to faster. If possible, vary the length of your stride throughout workouts for greater variety. Take your arms out of the action periodically by using the stationary handlebars and push the legs hard.
  3. Watch your heart rate. Ditch your book or Web surfing and pay attention to your heart rate to ensure that you are in the proper zone – ideally, from 75-85% of your maximum heart rate, throughout the entire workout.
  4. Embrace Workout Boosters. Available exclusively on Octane Fitness elliptical machines, Workout Boosters work as cool virtual personal trainers, such as X-Mode, GluteKicker and ArmBlaster, that dictate short bursts of various movements for the ultimate in interval training and sessions that fly by.
  5. Push yourself. Watch your form and be willing to increase the resistance or your pace for short intervals. Octane ellipticals also have exclusive advanced programs, such as MMA and 30:30 Interval, that are designed to challenge you and drive optimum conditioning.
  6. Take on CROSS CiRCUIT. Exclusive to Octane elliptical machines, CROSS CiRCUIT uniquely combines cardio intervals on the machine with strength-training exercises adjacent to the machine. The variety in terms of number and duration of intervals, strength exercises and accessories to use, is virtually unlimited, resulting in exceptionally efficient and effective sweat sessions. And you benefit from muscle-building, which boosts metabolism.